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Efficient Teaching Of Elementary Engineering Mechanics Courses

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Teaching Mechanics of Materials and General Mechanics Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.522.1 - 14.522.14

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Paper Authors


Henry Christiansen Brigham Young University

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Henry N. Christiansen obtained a BS degree in Mathematics from Utah State University in 1957 and MS and PhD degrees in Engineering Mechanics from Stanford University in 1958 and 1962. He began his career at the Western Development Laboratories, Palo Alto CA in 1960 and later joined the faculty of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Brigham Young University in 1965. He served as chair of this department from 1980-1986. Professor Christiansen’s primary research has been in the field of computer graphics. He founded and served as Director of the Engineering Computer Graphics Laboratory from 1985 until 1998. During that time, computer graphics and environmental modeling software was developed and distributed to thousands of organizations in over sixty nations. He has been honored with over a dozen awards for excellence in teaching at Brigham Young University.

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Steven Benzley Brigham Young University

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Steven E. Benzley obtained BES and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from Brigham Young University in 1966 and 1967, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Davis in 1971. He was a member of the technical staff at Sandia National Laboratories from 1967 to 1980. Since 1980 he has been on the faculty of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University. He has also served as Associate Dean of the BYU College of Engineering and Technology, Associate Dean of BYU Honors and General Education, and is currently the chair of the BYU Civil and Environmental Engineering Department. He research efforts are in Finite Element Modeling and Professional Engineering Ethics.

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Spencer Guthrie Brigham Young Univeristy

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W. Spencer Guthrie obtained a BS degree in Civil Engineering from Utah State University in 1998 and MS and PhD degrees in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1999 and 2002 respectively. He joined the faculty of the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at Brigham Young University in 2002. He currently serves as the undergraduate coordinator in the department. His research efforts focus on pavements and materials.

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Gaurab Paudel Brigham Young University

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Gaurab Paudel is an undergraduate student in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Brigham Young University and a teaching assistant in the Engineering Mechanics Instructional Laboratory.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Efficient Teaching of Elementary Engineering Mechanics Courses


Elementary Engineering Mechanics classes (i.e. Statics, Dynamics, and Mechanics of Materials) provide an integral portion of lower division engineering curricula for Civil, Mechanical, and Manufacturing Engineering. These courses are crucial in the engineering education process for these disciplines because they introduce students to the engineering approach in problem solving, provide basic principles that are used in following courses, and let lower division students recognize if they are equipped for an engineering curricula. In addition, many questions for the Fundamentals of Engineering exam have their roots in these courses.

Providing the proper teaching environment for these courses is a challenge for faculty and department administrations because a) there are numerous students that must be accommodated, b) the students deserve a quality experience to both introduce them to the engineering curriculum and to give them a positive encounter in the major, and c) the content of these courses forms the necessary foundation for numerous follow on courses. However, research and other demands on faculty may challenge a department’s ability to place appropriate faculty in these classes. This paper relates the evolution from teaching numerous sections of these classes, through the consolidation into large classes and eventually the incorporation of very effective and efficient student-to-student mentoring in conjunction with the large section instruction.

During the last fifty years the teaching of Elementary Engineering Mechanics courses at our university has continually evolved due to increasing enrollment pressures and higher expectations for faculty research productivity. This has resulted in a cost effective system of instruction involving at most two sections each of the Engineering Mechanics - Statics, Engineering Mechanics - Mechanics of Materials, and Engineering Mechanics - Dynamics classes. Students in these classes are provided with extensive class notes and exam file, and access to the Engineering Mechanics Instructional Laboratory (EMIL). This student run facility typically has eighteen student teaching assistants which provides full tutoring coverage as well as grading of homework and examinations. Faculty involvement is limited to sixteen lecture hours per week and supervision of the examination grading process. During a typical Fall or Winter Semester this system serves approximately six hundred students.

Success of this teaching effort is assessed by student questionnaires about the EMIL operations, scores of student’s Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, student course evaluations, and department exit interviews. Student questionnaires indicate that 79% of the students regularly use the EMIL and that 97% of the students rate the quality of the tutorial service either good or excellent. Students from our program pass the FE exam at a rate higher than the national average and student course evaluations and data from exit interviews indicate that understanding engineering fundamentals (i.e. engineering mechanics) is among the highest rated aspects of our program.

Key Words: Mechanics, Instruction, Mentoring

Christiansen, H., & Benzley, S., & Guthrie, S., & Paudel, G. (2009, June), Efficient Teaching Of Elementary Engineering Mechanics Courses Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas.

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015